Skip to main content

Full text of "Alfalfa in Western Canada"

See other formats

Alfalfa in Western (Hmxaba 

w. a. McGregor 

Superintendent of Farms 


(Compliments of 

%ty #*w%nt Alberta ffcnfr <Ea- t 



Times Print 

Medicine Hat 


Queen's University at Kingston 




JUfalla in Wtzitxn ffiana^a 

w. a. McGregor 

Superintendent of Farms 


(Compliments of 

Zbc #outIjcrn Alberta fkmi> Co., JTfii., 


fyg LFALFA is probably the oldest forage plant-and yet is a corn- 
el paritively new crop in many parts of our country. Within 
FM the last few years more and more interest has been mani- 
fested in this King of Forage Crops. The large increase in 

acerage each year points to the fact that the farmers of our country 
are gradually waking up to the value of this wonderful crop. 

One very valuable feature of Alfalfa is its long tap root. This root 
has been known to penetrate the soil to a depth of over thirty feet. 
By means of this tap root the plant is able to reach and utilize :he 
deep lying plant food of the soil. This food is not available to the 
shallower rooted plants. This root system is of great value in sec- 
tions of limited rainfall, where the alfalfa plant is able to withstand 
severe drought. This was clearly demonstrated in the summer of 
1914, when a field of alfalfa which was being grown for seed in 
Alberta under the supervision of the writer, produced one crop of hay 
and a crop of seed with a raintall of less than four inches through the 
growing season. This seed crop was grown with the plants in rows 
three feet apart. The space between the rows was cultivated and 
all available moisture conserved, .so that this crop could hardly be 
said to have grown under normal conditions. The methods used in 
growing this seed crop will be dealt with later in this article 

Like other legumes, alfalfa possesses a species of bacteria on the 
roots. These bacteria form small bunches or nodules and resemble 
small bunches of grapes hanging to the hair roots. Without bacteria, 
alfalfa fails to make healthy growth. The work of the bacteria is to 
take nitrogen from the air and convert it into food for the plant. 
Nitrogen is one of the most important elements of the protein in food. 
Neither plants nor animals can grow without nitrogen. Nearly all 
farm crops take nitrogen from the soil and thus leave the land poorer 
after each crop has been taken off. Alfalfa takes its nitrogen from 
the air, and when the crop is plowed up, stores this nitrogen in the 
soil. Alfalfa is our greatest renewer of nitrogen in the soil, and 
should have a place in every crop rotation. 

Soil Requirements 

Alfalfa requires an open well drained soil. It will not grow in 
soil where water does not readily run off. Alfalfa will not stand wet 
feet, the bacteria must have air or they cannot live, neither will they 
live in an acid soil. The sweet, open soil of Western Canada has all 
the requirements for the successful culture of this great forage plant. 

The Seed Bed 

Tne young alfalfa plant is quite tender the first season. Weeds 

are its worst enemy when the plants are young. Once alfalfa makes 
a good start it will last for years with no expense of plowing or seed- 
ing. Fields forty to fifty years old are quite common in the older 
countries. We can afford to spend more time and money in preparing 
a seed bed for this crop than any other. Where irrigation is not to 
be used, alfalfa should never be planted on anything but deep plowed, 
well worked summerfallow. A good firm seed bed on which the weeds 
have all been killed is essential to a good catch. Plow deep and give 
the roots a chance to get down. Kill the weeds before planting and 
give the plant a chance to grow up. 

The Seed 

It requires a hardy and acclimated seed to withstand the rigor of 
our northern winters. The further north that your seed has been 
grown, the better success you will have. Nine times out of ten the 
cause of failure with alfalfa in this country can be laid at the dcor of 
poor seed. Buy only hardy seed of the varigated type. The Varie- 
gated alfalfas include Grimm, Baltic and Ontario Variegated, all of 
which do well in this country. Reports from Ontario state that 
Grimm, Baltic and Ontario Variegated have always proven hardy and 
given excellent results, while seed of the common varieties imported 
from the United States have never given satisfactory results. 

The seed should be free from weeds and germinate from 90 to 95 
per cent. It should be a light olive green in color and should not 
contain any large percentage of brown dead seeds. You can have 
your seed tested free of charge by sending a sample to the Dominion 
Seed Laboratory at either Calgary or Ottawa. 

Don't sow poor, unacclimated seed from an unknown source. The 
best seed is cheapest in the end. Always remember that once you get 
a stand, alfalfa will last for years, and you can afford to buy the best 
seed to get this stand. 

Grimm Alfalfa 

Grimm is a variegated alfalfa distinguished from the other sorts 
chiefly by its resistance to severe winter conditions. This is the al- 
falfa most highly recommended for this country. 

Grimm alfalfa was introduced into America by Wendelin Grimm 
in 1857, and bears his name. Mr. Grimm brought the seed with him 
from Germany and planted it in Carver County, Minnesota. His first 
attempts at growing alfalfa received many severe setbacks, and he 
made little progress for the first few years. Many of the plants killed 
out in winter, but by persistent saving of the seed from the stronger 
plants he was able to reseed his fields and increase the acreage until 
he had an alfalfa that would not kill out in the winter. 

About 1890 the fame of Grimm alxalfa began to spread, and a few 
years later the U. S. Department of Agriculture began making some 

experiments with it. So far as is known there is no case of record — 
where the comparison was a fair one — in which the hardiness of 
Grimm has been exceeded by another. Many experiments have been 
carried on in the United States and Canada with Grimm seed, and it 
is of interest to note a few of the results. 

Winter Killing of Alfalfas in Experiments began in 1906, at St. 
Anthony Park, Minn. 



No. of 
Plants Alive 





GRIMM ( Four .-trains) - 





TURKESTAN (Three Strains)- 





( ORDINARY (Seven Strains) - 





An experiment made by Mr. Angus MacKay at the Indian Head 
Experimental Farm in 19->5-6 shows what Grimm alfalfa did in Sas- 
katchewan in comparison with others. 

Condition of Alfalfas in Spring of 1906 in Experiments began in 1905 
at Indian Head, Sask., Canada. 

.MONTANA (Irrigated) - 

Almost all killed. Plowed up. 

UTAH (Nonirrigable) - 


PERIE ----- 

All Dead. 


About 60 per cent, of Stand re- 



Almost all killed. 1 'lowed up. 

GRIMM .... 

About 95 per cent of stand re- 


The Indian Head Experimental Farm records for 1906 show that 
Grimm gave a much heavier yield of hay than either common alfalfa 
or Turkestan. 

Indian Head, 1906, Yield Per Acre. 







I g( K i 


:;7 4o 


In Mr. MacKay's reports he says: "From the first Grimm alfalfa 
has never been winter or spring killed in the least, and on this ac- 
count I consider it the most valuable strain for this country." 

A bulletin issued by the Dominion Government draws attention to 
the necessity of startng with good seed, and has the following to say: 
"The question of varieties is important and the Grimm and Turkestan 
have been found to resist the trying conditions better than other 
sorts. At the Lacombe station more than 90 per cent, of the above 
mentioned plants have survived the winters, while the other kinds 
have fallen below 70 per cent, and as low as 20 per cent." 

All things being equal, Grimm gives more and fuller crops, and 
hence larger yields than any other kind. This is no doubt due to its 
hardiness, by virtue of which it maintains a more perfect stand over 
a longer period of years than other sorts. 

Grimm begins growth earlier in the spring and continues later 
into the fall than any other sort with which it has been compared. 
Often it is ready to cut when other sorts are only half grown. This 
ability to utilize to the full the rather short growing season in this 
northern country, combined with its unusual hardiness, is of great 

Baltic Alfalfa 

There is no apparent difference between the so-called Baltic and 
Grimm. Baltic seed was originally grown near the town of Baltic in 
North Dakota, and it is believed that the start was made with Grimm 
seed. It is the equal of Grimm in hardiness. It produces almost an 
equal quantity of forage, and people who have grown both sorts, state 
that there is no difference between them. 

Ontario Variegated 

This is a variegated alfalfa which has made a name for itself in 
the Province of Ontario. Botanically there is no difference between 
this and Grimm or Baltic, and it seems to be equally hardy. 

Turkestan Alfalfa 

This alfalfa was introduced in to the United States about fifty 
years ago. It was brought over from Northern Turkestan in an en- 
deavor to discover a more hardy alfalfa. This strain has done very 
well in some parts of this country, but does not seem to be as good 
as either of the variegated alfalfas. 


In sections of limited rainfall care should be taken not to sow too 
thickly. From ten to fifteen pounds of seed per acre seems to give 
the best results. Where irrigation is possible, twenty pounds of seed 

A Seed Crop in Bloom. 

A young Alfalfa Crop in Rows for Seed Production. 

to *' Me Bangohw form 

A Seed Crop in the Southern Alberta Co's Farm at Suffield, Alberta. 

Cultivatirg a Seed Crop of Alfalfa, Southern Alberta Land Co's Farms at Suffield 

to the acre will not be found too much. Do not sow until the ground 
has warmed up in the spring. 

Alfalfa may be either broadcasted or put In with a drill. The 
broadcasting method takes a little more seed but gives very good re- 
sults. An ordinary grain drill may be used by mixing the alfalfa seed 
with cracked wheat and sowing in the ordinary way. The wheat 
should be run through a grinder so as not to grind too fine, and it is 
then possible to get an even flow and a uniform distribution of the 
seed. The seed should not be put in too deep, but should go down 
to moisture. 

With or Without a Nurse Crop 

Where it is not intended to irrigate, a nurse crop should never 
be used. The young plants will need all the moisture they can get to 
give them strength to go through the first winter. 


To obtain the bacteria on the roots described in the first chapter, 
it is in most parts necessary to place the bacteria in the soil. Some 
soils already have this bacteria, but unless it is certain that they are 
already there, you should inoculate. This can be done either by 
spreading soil from an old alfalfa field at the rate of from one to four 
hundred pounds to the acre, or by means of Nitro Culture. The Nitro 
Culture system is by far the simplest method and seems to give 
equally as good results. The Nitro Culture is spread on the seed be- 
fore being sown, and takes but a few minutes to inoculate the seed. 
Sufficient culture may be obtained from your nearest Agricultural 
College to inoculate sixty pounds of seed, at a very nominal price. 

Treatment of the Field the First Season 

It is very important that the young plants be clipped off at least 
once the first season. This tends to make a stronger root develop- 
ment and also keeps the weeds in check. The best time for clipping 
is when the plants are from six to ten inches high. In no case let 
the plants blossom the first season, as they will then put their ener- 
gies into forming seed pods when it should all be going toward the 
development of the plant. Clip off as often as necessary to keep the 
weeds in check. 


The most valuable part of the alfalfa plant are the leaves. These 
contain about seventy-five per cent, of the total protein of the plant. 
Great care should therefore be taken to harvest the hay with as little 
loss of leaves as possible. 

The time of cutting is important. A good general rule is to cut 
when the field is one-tenth in bloom. For dairy cattle it has been 
found to cut a little earlier, and for horses a little later. The earlier 
it is cut, the better and tenderer hay it will make. At this stage dairy 
cattle seem to like it better, and hogs will clean it all up. A little cut 
when all in bloom makes the best horse feed. 

The hay should not be cut immediately after a heavy rain as the 
wet ground will hinder the proper curing. The cutting should start 
after the dew is off in the morning and the hay left in the swath until 
wilted. Do not let it dry out in the swath or there will be a big loss 
of leaves. It should then be raked into windrows to cure or put into 
small cocks. When dry it can be hauled to the barn or stacked. In 
no case let it dry out too much before stacking or you will lose a lot 
of valuable leaves in handling. 

Seed Production 

With the increased demand each year for a hardy seed, attempts 
have been made in different parts of Canada to grow alfalfa seed. 
Hardy seed is essential to the successful growing of alfalfa in Canada, 
and always finds a ready market and a big price. 

For the successful production of alfalfa seed it takes a climate of 
comparative drought at the time the seed is setting. Rains at this 
time will result in the plant putting forth new shoots instead of using 
its energies in forming seed, and a very light seed crop will be the 
result. Southern Alberta seems to have a climate best adapted for 
the production of seed. Here the rains come through the spring and 
summer with practically no rain in August and September. 

The Southern Alberta Land Company whose farms are near Suf- 
field, Alberta, were probably the first to recognize the possibilities of 
Alberta for the production of alfalfa seed. The start was made with 
a very small field, and the seed saved from the hardiest plants and 
new fields sown with this seed. 'In 1914 the Southern Alberta Land 
Co. threshed 250 acres for seed, and are probably the largest producers 
of hardy Grimm seed on the continent today. This hardy seed has 
always found a ready market, and wonderful success has been report- 
ed from all parts of Canada with it. 

How the Southern Alberta Land Company 
Grow the Seed 

Great care is taken to have the field in as good tilth as possible 
and free of all weeds. The seed is inoculated by the culture method 
and sown with a special seeder. This seed is very similar to an ordin- 
ary grain drill but on a much smaller scale. The advantage of using 
this seeder is that the flow of seed can be controlled perfectly. 

For the production of seed, it is essential that each plant get all 
the sunshine and moisture possible. This is done by seeding the al- 
falfa in rows and cultivating. Some of the seeder spouts are closed 
up so as to space the rows thirty-si inches apart and the seed put in 
at the rate of about two pounds to che acre. There is no definite 
rule as to the spacing of the rows and much depends on the district 
in which it is grown. In this particular district thirty-six inches 
seems to give the best results. 

When the plants are up in the rows high enough to be plainly 
seen, the cultivators are started. There are a number of cultivators 
adapted to this, but the one in use in this instance is a regular beet 
cultivator, vhich has a number of different kinds of knives and shovels. 
Great care is taken at the first cultivation not to cut off the young 
plants or cover them up. Two horses are needed to operate each cul- 
tivator, and two rows are cultivated at once. The fields are cultivated 
often enough to keep a fine mulch between the rows and keep the 
vacant space free from weeds. 

The crop is harvested with a reaper which drops the alfalfa in 
small bunches. These bunches are then lifted and put into small 
cocks where the alfalfa is cured. Great care is taken in handling this, 
as the seed pods are easily broken off, for at this time the leaves have 
all dropped off the plant and the stems are more or less dry and brittle. 

An alfalfa huller is used to thresh the crop. This huller rubs the 
seed from the pods and does the work with a minimum of loss. An 
ordinary grain thresher may be used, but there is a big loss of seed. 
The floors of the racks in which the alfalfa is hauled to the huller are 
covered with canvass, and canvass is spread under the huller, and in 
this way any seed pods that may shake off in handling, are saved. 

After the seed comes from the huller it is cleaned. A large power 
cleaner is used in the cleaning, and all small seeds and dirt are taken 

The Feeding Value of Alfalfa 

Alfalfa is rich in digestible protein, which is a builder of bone, 
muscle, milk and wool. We have no other forage plant so rich in pro- 
tein, and protein in food is what costs. Alfalfa hay has just about 
the same feeding value as bran, and bran is worth from eighteen to 
twenty-five dollars per ton plus the cost of hauling to your farm. 
One ton of alfalfa is equal in feeding value to 60 bushels of oats. Al- 
falfa will yield an average of three tons to the acre per year, or the 
equivalent in value to one hundred and eighty bushels of oats. Al- 
falfa has only to be planted on an average of once in ten years, while 
land must be prepared and seed sown for each season. Alfalfa fed in 
conjunction with coarse grains makes the cheapest possible meat. 

Alfalfa for Dairy Cows 

No dairyman should be without a few acres of alfalfa, for here is 
found its best use of all. Milk is a material requiring large amounts 
of protein, and no forage plant is as rich in protein as alfalfa. Alfalfa 
fed with the addition of a very small quantity of grain will give the 
maximum flow of milk and at the same time keep the cows in splendid 
vigor and health. It has been found that alfalfa hay will give ten 
per cent, more milk with ten per cent, less feed than prairie hay. 

Alfalfa for Sheep 

Sheep love alfalfa. They need a food rich in protein to make wool, 
muscle, bone and milk. Thousands of sheep are being fattened every 
year in the Western States on alfalfa. It has been found that alfalfa 
fed lambs made 52 per cent, greater gains than lambs fed prairie hay 
and the same grain ration. A little alfalfa fed when the ewes are 
carrying their lambs will make a wonderful difference in the lamb 
crop. Care should be taken in pasturing" sheep on alfalfa, as they are 
liable to bloat. 

Alfalfa for Swine 

Alfalfa, either as a pasture or as hay, makes a very valuable 
feed for hogs. Brood sows will bring forth large litters of strong, 
healthy pigs when fed a little alfalfa through the winter. Young pigs 
on alfalfa pasture will make wonderful gains with the addition of a 
light grain ration. It has been found that one acre of alfalfa has 
produced as high as $24.00 worth of pork. The hog is a grazing animal 
and will keep healthier and make cheaper gains if given the run of 
an alfalfa pasture. 

Alfalfa for Fattening Cattle 

lAfalfa will grow and maintain cattle alone. With the addition of 
a little grain they can be grown and finished at the same time. Hun- 
dreds of cattle are being finished every year on alfalfa without one 
pound of grain. In the cattle feeding portions of the States where 
"Corn is King" they say "Alfalfa is Queen." Cattle can be fattened 
on one third less grain when fed with alfalfa than without. Beef can 
be produced twenty to thirty per cent, cheaper when alfalfa is used 
to balance the ration. 

The greatest difficulty that the feeder has to contend with is to 
keep his cattle from going "off feed." Alfalfa is eaten with great 
relish, acts as a tonic to the system and keeps the stock always in 
shape to take their full feed. 

Alfalfa for Horses 

For young growing horses, alfalfa cannot be surpassed. It builds 
bone and muscle and keeps the young horses healthy and thrifty. For 
brood mares it is excellent. Work horses keep in splendid shape 
when turned into an alfalfa pasture at nights. 

For horses the alfalfa should be cut when in full bloom. When 
cut young it has a tendency to be too laxative for horses doing hard 
work. A little alfalfa will keep your horses healthy and always ready 
tor a good day's work. 


Don't sow seed from an unknown source. 

Don't sow on anything but well prepared and well drained soil. 
Don't forget that alfalfa only needs to be sown not oftener than 
every ten years and that the best seed is cheapest in the end. 
Don't neglect to inoculate. 

Don't sow on dirty or weedy ground. 

Don't sow until the ground has wormed up in the spring and dan- 
ger of frost is over. 

Don't sow with a nurse crop unless you can irrigate, as the young 
plants will need all the moisture and sunshine. 

Don't sow anything but the best seed available. It is cheapest in 
the end. 

Don't pasture the field the first year, and not too closely after 

Don't forget that sheep will bloat if turned on alfalfa when it is 
wet with rain or dew. Wait until the sun has dried it off. 

Don't start on too large a scale. A small field properly prepared 
and sowed with hardy, acclimated seed will give you better returns 
than a larger field put in on poorly prepared ground with poor seed. 

Don't forget that Grimm is the alfalfa best adapted to this coun- 
try. Baltic and Turkestan are also good if you know where the seed 
comes from. 

Don't let the weeds go to seed. nip them off as often as neces- 
sary, it won't hurt the alfalfa. 

Don't forget to cut your alfalfa for dairy cows and pigs when the 
first blooms appear. It makes a tenderer and better hay. 

Don't give up. 



.> *■* 


> m 

.; . 




$%pB: / ^ 


: ... 'V ■- ,.J 

^SH?&^"v^ f - 

EHS&.. '- $1^: 

'Cv - 

Seeding Alfalfa in Rows for Seed. 

Sly lUirnEBmni ^©©s 
Growna in Allb@irt& 

With the increased acreage planted to alfalfa each year, has 
come the increased demand for a hardy and acclimated seed. Alfalfa 
has been grown and is being grown in almost every part of Canada, 
yet from nearly every district we hear of fields going through the first 
year and then killing out the second winter. What is the cause? Nine 
times out of ten the cause can be laid directly at the door of weak, 
unacclimated seed. Why go to the expense of preparing a seed bed 
and then plant seed that will turn out a failure? 

We buy pure bred sires from breeds that we know will do well in 
our country. We buy seed wheat and oats of the sorts that we know 
are large producers and will ripen in our climate. Why then buy 
imported Alfalfa seed of some nameless sort when you can buy hardy 
Grimm seed that is grown in Alberta and acclimated to northern con- 

We offer you Grimm seed that is grown in Alberta and acclimated 
to our northern conditions. Our seed took first prize at the Provincial 
Seed Fair. It grades No. 1 and is certified free from weed seeds. Be- 
ing grown in this country it makes it almost positive proof against 
winter killing. It is grown in a dry portion of Alberta and is very 
drought resistant. 

The supply is limited, so order early. By express or freight at 
purchaser's expense, bags free. Quantities up to one hundred 
pounds at 75 cents per pound. Liberal discount for quantities over 
one hundred pounds. 

Write for samples and quantity prices to W. A. McGregor, Sup't 
of Farms, The Southern Alberta Land Company, Suffield, Alberta, or 
to The Southern Alberta Land Co. Ltd., Medicine Hat, Alberta. 



run §()iil1i(!ni (Porta JJiiid ^(mi[)MiiiJ.Liniii-.!«j. 




•5U Tfield , PI I berta . January 26th, 1915. 
Mr. W. C. Herriman, 

Hospital for Feeble Winded, 

Orillia, Ont. 
Dear Sir:- 

In response to your letter of the 21st inst., 
I am mailing you under separate cover ? copy of our Alfalfa 
Book, together with a sample of our "Grimm 11 Alfalfa Seed and 
a Price List. 

"Baltic" Alfalfa is nothing more or less than 
"Grimm" under another name. While we hare both sorts for 
sale, we always recommend the "Grimm" on account of its "be- 
ing "better known. The price on both sorts is the same - 
75^ pe r pound . 

Alfalfa, once it gets a good start, will last 
for years. It wi!3 pay you to sow only the best seed ,and 
insure a good catch. A failure with alfalfa is a big ex- 
pense octh in time and money. Do not take chances with cheap 
seed from an unknown source, - the best seed will be the cheap 
est in the end. 

V/e can supply seed in any quantity desired, and 
hope to have the pleasure of filling an order for you. 

Yours very truly,